Over the past year, many of the biggest names in boxing have sung the praises of Errol Spence Jr., even going so far as predicting he’ll be the eventual heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what is a stacked 147-pound division.
Now, as he prepares for his first fight of 2016 against Chris Algieri, Spence is aiming to make this the year he begins to separate himself from a pack that includes such names as Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Kell Brook, Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao.
“With all of these great fights going on this year, this is when Errol [can prove that] he is all that guys like Ray Leonard and [trainers] Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia and Virgil Hunter have said about him,” says Derrick James, Spence’s trainer. “This is a chance to show before the fans’ eyes that he’s a star, and the boxing experts know what they’re talking about.”
A 26-year-old southpaw from Desoto, Texas, Errol Spence Jr. (19-0, 16 KOs) will be after his seventh consecutive stoppage victory against Algieri (21-2, 8 KOs) when they clash in Saturday’s main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
Spence-Algieri is the latest in a series of key 147-pound bouts scheduled for the first half of this year.
The action started in January, when Garcia—a former 140-pound champion—won a unanimous decision against Robert Guerrero for Mayweather’s vacant 147-pound title. Then last month, Jessie Vargas scored a ninth-round TKO of Sadam Ali to win the title vacated in February by Bradley, and Kell Brook successfully defended his title with a second-round stoppage of Kevin Bizier.
This past Saturday, Pacquiao defeated Bradley to cap their trilogy after having split two earlier matchups, and on April 30, Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz will meet in a rematch of their 2011 Fight of the Year, which Ortiz won by unanimous decision. Finally, on June 25, former champion Porter challenges 147-pound titleholder Thurman in a highly anticipated brawl.
All of these high-profile fighters are formally auditioning for a chance to replace Mayweather as the king of the division, and Spence plans to be the one to end up on top of the mountain—and stay there.
“I definitely feel like I’m that new guy and that new face that’s emerging on the boxing scene,” Spence says. “A lot of these guys, like Danny Garcia and the rest of them, they’ve been pros since around 2007. I’m the new face of the [147-pound] division, and I’m ready to make my presence known.”
To do so, he’ll have to get past Algieri, a tough 32-year-old who has jumped into the ring with some of the best in the business and who will represent Spence’s most experienced opponent to date.
Algieri, a former 140-pound world champion, won a 10-round unanimous decision over Erick Bone at Barclays Center in December in his last bout, recording an eighth-round knockdown in the process.
The triumph followed Algieri’s only two professional losses: a unanimous decision against six-division champion Pacquiao in a 144-pound bout in November 2014, followed by a unanimous decision to former titleholder Khan in May in what was Algieri’s 147-pound debut.
In fighting Bone, Algieri took a step down in competition to rebuild his confidence. But now the Huntington, New York, native is back at it again, squaring off against another marquee opponent in another high-risk, high-reward fight.
It’s a bout with a classic something-has-to-give component: Spence has stopped 16 of his 19 foes and hasn’t been taken the distance since a 10-round contest in June 2014. Meanwhile, Algieri—despite getting knocked down six times by Pacquiao—has never been knocked out.
You don’t need binoculars to see Spence’s motivation in this one.
“Errol wants to make a statement,” James says. “He wants to beat this guy more convincingly than Manny Pacquiao did. And the only way to do that is to knock him out.”
For full coverage of Spence vs Algieri, visit our fight page.